President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team confirmed a White House role for his son-in-law Jared Kushner on Monday, but opponents might challenge the appointment.
Kushner will become a “special adviser” to the president, a position that might violate a federal anti-nepotism law, and that will bring possible conflicts of interest raised by the Kushner family’s far-flung business ties under closer scrutiny.
“Mr. Kushner is committed to complying with federal ethics laws and we have been consulting with the Office of Government Ethics regarding the steps he would take,” his lawyer told NBC News, as news broke that he would be named special adviser to the president.
Kushner, an Orthodox Jew married to Ivanka Trump, had already been indicating a possible White House role, as his family searched for a home in Washington, D.C. and reports circulated that he might resign his role as the head of his family’s real estate firm, Kushner Companies. Right after the election, it was rumored that he might become chief of staff in the new administration, but that role instead went to current Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus.
The law firm Kushner hired to advise him on the possibility of taking a government job, WilmerHale, said his position at the White House wouldn’t run afoul of the federal anti-nepotism law, because that law applies to government agencies, and the White House isn’t one. Not all ethics experts agree with that assessment, according to the New York Times.
To address the possibility that Kushner will be in a position to make decisions favorable to his family’s real estate business, Kushner Companies, Kushner has said that he will resign as chief executive of the company and divest himself of a stake in its flagship building, 666 Fifth Avenue. The Kushner Companies and Angbang Insurance Group, a Chinese financial giant with close ties to the state, are nearing a deal on a joint venture to redevelop 666 Fifth Avenue, the Times reported.
Kushner is a crucial member of the Trump kitchen cabinet, having worked to focus the president-elect’s messaging, discipline his campaign fundraising operation and do crisis control, as when he huddled with the candidate after an old tape was released in which the reality star-cum-president was caught bragging about sexual assault.
Meanwhile, Ivanka Trump has already been tarred with possible conflict of interest accusations, after sitting in on a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, while her jewelry company was closing an agreement in his country.
Kushner has never held a government position, like many in the new Trump administration. But at 36 years old, he’s set to become one of the most powerful men in the nation’s capital.
Daniel J. Solomon is the Assistant to the Editor/News Writer at the Forward. Originally from Queens, he attended Harvard as an undergraduate, where he wrote his senior thesis on French-Jewish intellectual history. He is excited to have returned to New York after his time in Massachusetts. Daniel’s passions include folk music, cycling, and pointed argument.